Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Empty Shop Returns in January!

Posted by , on January 20th, 2015

The Empty Shop, a unique charitable concept, which puts a novel spin on the the traditional clothing drive, will return to Manchester in 2015. For those who don’t know what the Empty Shop is, it works on the principle that the public “bring clothes to the shop instead of taking them from the shop”, according to the promotional video from the company behind the original idea.

The Empty Shop was a tremendous success earlier this year and Mustard Tree is very proud to be involved once again in such a great scheme. It will stand in Exchange Square in Manchester Arndale from Friday 23 January to Sunday 1 February, with an exclusive launch on Thursday 22 January. It will follow the same opening times as the shopping centre, only this time we will have a much bigger space.

We’re asking people to come along and donate their pre-loved clothes, which will then be displayed by the shop’s team of stylist before being sold within Mustard Tree shops and distributed to those in need.


Adrian Nottingham, CEO of Mustard Tree said “The Empty Shop was a fantastic project to be part of at the start of 2014 and we are very excited to be part of the initiative again a second time round. We were able to connect with people we may never otherwise have reached, and raising 2 tons of clothes is a remarkable amount. For the majority of us, being able to share what we do with others and witnessing their positive reactions reinforced why we do what we do – creating choice and opportunity for people who are homeless and marginalised”

Mancunians really showed their generosity last time. In 2014, 2 tonnes of clothing were donated over the 10 days. Clothes were generously gifted from 20 brands, 25 businesses and 265 individual donors including over 1,000 garments from one brand! In total, 7,550 garments were donated because of the event. It was also recognised with two awards, winning both the Best Community Relations and overall Golden Apple at the 2014 Purple Apple Awards.

There will be plenty of local celebrities getting involved in the cause this year, whose names will be announced nearer to the date. The store itself will be entirely manned by Freedom Project participants and corporate friends of Mustard Tree such as; FireCask, ThoughtWorks, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Turley Associates, Manchester City Council, Eastlands Homes and City West Housing who will help raise awareness of the ongoing issues that those in need face every day.


A novel approach to giving to charity, the concept is very simple: donate; style-up; empty. People contribute their pre-loved clothing, which is then displayed by the shop’s team of stylists and fashion bloggers. At the end of the day, the clothes will be taken over to Mustard Tree, where they will be distributed to those in need, given to other charities, or sold in our shops.

So, it’s simple, really. Have a root around at home and find all the clothes that you no longer wear, don’t fit you, or you don’t like, then come along to the shop in Manchester Arndale and give them to us. We’ll do the rest.

See you in January!

If you want to keep up to date with goings-on from the shop, you can follow us on social media here:

Twitter: @EmptyShopMCR Facebook: /EmptyShopMCR Instagram: EmptyShopMCR

Protest Demonstration

Posted by , on January 5th, 2015

On 22nd December, 2014 Mustard Tree was the subject of a peaceful protest demonstration arranged by the campaign group ‘Boycott Workfare ’. Firstly, we acknowledge the politeness and respect shown to us throughout the brief protest outside our Ancoats base by the campaign group; our intention is always to listen, talk and then make a considered and relevant review and response.

The rationale behind the protest                                                                                                                                                                                     
For the past 2 years, we have offered a 4 week work experience placement linked to a part of the government workfare programme termed the ‘Mandatory Work Activity Scheme’. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau gives the following description of this programme:

“The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme is a ‘work for your benefit’ scheme for people claiming jobseeker’s allowance who are aged 18 or over. It’s aimed at people who need extra support to look for jobs and to gain work-related skills. Jobcentre Plus can decide whether you must take part.  The scheme is intended to provide work or work-related activity for up to 30 hours a week over a four-week period to help you improve your chances of getting work. To be on the scheme, you have to be available for and actively seeking work, and you have to enter into a jobseeker’s agreement.  If you are required to take part in the scheme, but you don’t without a very good reason, you will be sanctioned. This means your Jobseeker’s Allowance will be reduced or stopped for a certain period. However, you may be able to challenge a decision to sanction you”

The Boycott Workfare campaign group assert that, “Workfare forces people to work for free using threat of sanctions (removal of welfare benefits). It’s exploitive and causes poverty and destitution.” The criticism levelled against Mustard Tree is that this part of our activity and our ongoing involvement with Workfare makes us complicit in an exploitive system that is causing harm to those individuals trapped in it.

The facts about Mustard Tree in relation to the protest

  • Mustard Tree was founded in 1994, and we have now grown to support over 4,500 people each and every year (in the past 12 months we provided approximately 150 placements to job seekers on the mandatory work activity scheme). The majority of our clients have been impacted by the economic, political and social causes of homelessness and marginalisation.
  • Mustard Tree’s core activity is the support of all those that it works with, through the realisation of personal goals that move them away from dependency towards a sustainable and fruitful future. We treat everyone that comes through our doors with kindness and respect, valuing the positive contribution that each person makes to Mustard Tree and to society in general.
  • Our experience has been that many of those who join us from this particular scheme are not ready for employment and would fail to secure or hold down a regular job. However, following a short period of meaningful activity, confidence building and the gaining of work related skills and disciplines; many have sufficiently increased their choices and opportunities to move into sustainable employment.
  • Workfare forms just one element of our workforce. Our larger flagship programme the Freedom Project (a 20 week life skills and work readiness programme) forms the largest part of our operations and it is an entirely voluntary scheme.
  • We have a growing number of people who, on completion of the mandatory 4 week placement, apply to return to Mustard Tree to join our Freedom Project. If you would like to read some of the stories of the stories of those whose progression has then led to sustainable employment, please click here.
  • We are convinced that everyone has something valuable and unique to bring to our community and all are encouraged to be a part of the solution. The hard work and dedication of many of the Workfare participants has allowed Mustard Tree the capacity to develop and distribute its resources and services to those most in need. We believe that many of those who have been with us have felt their lives enriched by the opportunities made available to them to be part of the Mustard Tree story. Yes, their journey started by being told that they must attend a period of mandatory work activity, but some will go on to say it was the best thing that could have happened to them.

Closing Remarks

The Boycott Workfare campaign group’s primary aim appears to be the collapse of the workfare system. Mustard Tree’s primary aim is the support of those who are homeless and marginalised. Our focus is the person who is trapped in the system, and transforming their lives.  As an organisation, we understand that every political system will have failings; but our primary focus is to support our beneficiaries.  That said, we must consider what may replace the current system and we must resist the use of disadvantaged people as pawns in a political fight; whoever the protagonists may be.

We fully concede that not everyone has a positive story to tell of their time with us, and we fully understand that placements with other providers have not been life enhancing and indeed have sometimes been the very opposite. We recognise that individuals going through this programme with some providers will have felt exploited and undermined and as result will have been unable to complete the placement and will have suffered sanctions as a consequence. This is deplorable and unacceptable and calls into question the overall value of the workfare system and its ability to deliver what its confessed goals are.

The recent accusations made against Mustard Tree are serious and we must review our position going forward, whilst holding to our central focus of how best we support those most in need. Mustard Tree must never exploit or cause poverty and destitution. I believe we have twenty years of evidence of the exact opposite with a track record of transforming lives and an understanding of the complexity of the issues that lead to poverty, disadvantage and homelessness. However, we can never afford to stop listening, learning and reflecting.


Adrian Nottingham, CEO Mustard Tree



Little Hulton Launch

Posted by , on December 19th, 2014

If you follow the goings-on here at Mustard Tree you’ll know that we recently opened a new branch in Little Hulton, Salford.

To celebrate the successful opening we held an official launch event on Wednesday 3 December. This was a great opportunity to introduce Mustard Tree to the local community and thank all the people who made the Little Hulton branch a reality.

It took a lot of hard work from a lot of people and a little bit longer than we expected. The property had been vacant for 4 years, so our landlord, City West, wanted to ensure that all the buildings basic services were in working order – particularly the water system, electrics, disabled lift and fire alarm – before they handed it over to us.

The day itself was a great success from the official ‘ribbon cutting’ and the attendance of the Mayor of Salford, Ian Stewart.


The launch is just the first step in a plan that we hope will benefit the residents of Little Hulton and the wider Salford area. Salford has consistently been one of the most deprived areas in Britain (Manchester isn’t doing any better, according to the last Indices of Deprivation report) so there is a real need for the services Mustard Tree offers in the area.

Initially we want to establish a good retail operation, so we can furniture at low affordable prices, and gift where possible to support sustainable tenancies and help people build a home. We will be operating a food bank and trialing a ‘Food Club’, which is a new model for tackling food poverty.

Once we have built a community, established what the local service users need most, and found a group of volunteers, we can begin to deliver our training programme, The Freedom Project, from this Little Hulton base.

Along with the Booth Centre and Business In The Community, Mustard Tree’s Freedom Project has been part of a scheme that resulted in 400 homeless people finding jobs in the last three years. This is a great example of the impact that a focus on volunteering, education and support can have.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask.

Emily’s Story – Building a Future from Workfare

Posted by , on December 9th, 2014

At Mustard Tree, one of the most impactful parts of our work is the Freedom Project.

A 20-week course, it is aimed at people who have had barriers to employment, whether that be homelessness or mental health issues, and offers participants the chance for on-the-job experience within our organisation, along with access to crucial support like counselling and mentoring.

In the last three years we have been part of Manchester partnership scheme, which also included Business in the Community and the Booth Centre, that helped get 400 homeless and marginalised people into work, as well as giving 700 more training and support. The Freedom project was integral to this achievement.

Many of these clients are referred to us by the local authority but more recently some long-term employed have come on placements from the Job Centre as part of the government’s WorkFare scheme (now called Help to Work). We were included in a debate on Twitter about WorkFare and it got us thinking about the positive aspects of an admittedly flawed scheme that has engendered a lot of opposition.

Emily was a participant of the Freedom Project and came to Mustard Tree only because she was referred here by the Job Centre. It would certainly not have been her first choice given her past experience of placements but try it she did; and she had the following to say about her experience.

“When I was told by my Job Centre Advisor that they were going to send me on another placement, I was not looking forward to it. In the past I had hated work placements as they were all pretty boring. Back in September I spent a month with Learn Direct and they sent me to Mustard Tree on placement. I enjoyed it, and when I finished with Learn Direct I took the opportunity of joining Mustard Tree’s 20-week Freedom Project. I found it was really good for my work experience, especially as my main goal was to get a job.

“It was a real boost to my confidence when I asked to join the project, as everyone thought I had done a great job in my first month. I was volunteering as part of a small team in the office on the help desk. This involved manning the busy phones, sorting out enquires and keeping the collections and deliveries on track, which is no small task once the lines start getting busy. But ensuring the Mustard Tree vans all go to the right place with the right items at the right time is crucial to the work of the charity.

“My time at the Mustard Tree was short, as I now have a full time job in which I am able to use the skills I picked up there. My new role, which I just started (November 2014) also involves answering phones and helping customers with their enquiries. I not only enjoyed my experience at Mustard Tree, but I have also met some really nice people, gained new skills and gained a job out of it! What more could I have asked for?”

While WorkFare is far from an ideal solution to the problems of long-term unemployment, we have seen firsthand the benefits of these unpaid placements. On one hand the jobless should not be forced to undertake work or to work for their benefits; on the other we believe there are those who gain the skills, confidence and support that allows them to overcome that last hurdle and find a job, as a direct consequence of the scheme.

“Increasingly the good people that Mustard Tree has traditionally supported are trapped in WorkFare. Whilst we oppose some of the core elements of Workfare we cannot turn our backs on those most in need of what we do.” Adrian Nottingham, CEO of Mustard Tree.

And if we believe we can make as big a difference in someone’s life as we did in Emily’s then that is something we need to consider.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

Mustard Tree Drama Group – ‘Welcome to the Firm’

Posted by , on November 4th, 2014

Drama Group Welcome to the Firm

Manchester Partnership Finds Jobs for 400 Homeless

Posted by , on October 29th, 2014

Autumn will soon give way to winter and the hyperactivity of the festive period, so now seems the perfect time to reflect on some encouraging achievements.

Rebuilding lives is at the heart of what Mustard Tree do, and we know that it takes a lot of hard work, from us and our clients, to achieve this. But we also know that we are part of a bigger picture, one step in a long journey that involves a lot of different organisations.

And it’s the collaboration between these local and national organisations that is the key to successfully tackling the causes and impact of homelessness .

That’s what an innovative scheme known as the Manchester Employment Task Group (METG) set out to do three years ago. Backed by Manchester City Council as an integral part of the local Homelessness Strategy, it brought together Mustard Tree, the Booth Centre and Business in the Community, who joined forces to provide unique support for both homeless people and those at risk of homelessness.

Since the scheme started, not only has it lead to 400 people finding employment and a further 730 benefiting from the training, education and volunteering opportunities provided. That’s a great accomplishment and one that we’re very proud to have played a role in!

We and the other members each provided different routes to employment:

  • Business In The Community (BITC) has a Ready for Work programme that brings together employers and people with experience of homelessness through work placements and training, and supports them post-placement.
  • The Booth Centre offers support to homeless people around Manchester through advice, education and training, as well as housing and a drop-in centre.
  • Mustard Tree were involved through our Freedom Project, a 20-week volunteering programme that gives those on the path to employment a chance to get hands-on experience and build up relevant skills for future work by participating in the six main areas of our operation.

Adrian Nottingham, Mustard Tree CEO, commented: “We are delighted with the positive outcomes of this partnership which has provided a route into employment for the homeless and marginalised within the city. The partnership provides a range of complementary services, enabling clients to access the support they need to move towards employment. Our Ready for Work Club is a great example of this – run jointly by Mustard Tree and Business in the Community – and provides a hub for our clients to meet each week and access the mentoring, training and support they need to gain work.”

BITC wrote their own article about the partnership, which you can read through this link.


GraceNotes Fundraising Concert

Posted by , on October 29th, 2014

Grace Notes Nov 22nd 2014

Manchester Sleepout 2014

Posted by , on October 22nd, 2014

Our very own Fiona, Jess and Sam will be taking part in the Manchester Sleepout to raise money for the Booth Centre – a day centre that offers activities, advice and support to homeless people in Manchester.  They provide education, training and advice to enable people to find new homes, improve their health, increase their skills and confidence and to successfully resettle in the community.

If you would like to support them, please donate via their fundraising page.

Acting on Impulse

Posted by , on October 22nd, 2014

Acting on Impulse’s new season of acting workshops is about to begin. The first of their fortnightly workshop starts on Sunday 26 October at Mustard Tree, 1:45-4. Anyone from the margins is very welcome.

For their production this year they will be developing characters and working on the concept of a reality TV show. This will be made in to a short film and screened at a premier vent next summer. It’ll be launched online at the event, for all to see.

Click the links to view their music video ‘StreetLife‘, and this year’s 4-part mockumentary ‘Life After SteetLife‘.

For enquires, please contact Sue Tomlinson at or 07880 758 361.

Acting on Impulse

We’re Coming to Little Hulton! Opening 4 November 2014.

Posted by , on October 16th, 2014

For the last 20 years Mustard Tree has been committed to helping the homeless and marginalised across Greater Manchester. For most of that time, we have been operating from our headquarters in Ancoats, where our various projects, courses and training programs are run. At the start of 2012 we also opened a small retail unit in the centre of Eccles, which has provided essential services for clients but without the space to develop our other projects and courses.

Now that our future is secure in Manchester city centre, we’re glad to be expanding our services to Little Hulton, a suburb of Salford from 10:00 on Tuesday, 4 November 2014. We work with around 4,500 people clients a year and for the large number of these who come from the Salford area, we know this new base will make a massive difference, being in a much more convenient location for them to contribute to and benefit from our services.

Mustard Tree is planning to offer the following key services in Unit 50, Little Hulton District Centre, which previously housed the Brierley Community Centre.

  • Providing emergency food parcels, low-cost clothing and furniture.

  • Training, volunteering and employment opportunities to help clients rebuild their lives and progress towards being valued contributors to society.

  • Working with the local community to deliver local solutions and generate local benefits.

This will take time and support to achieve, but we are confident that the Little Hulton base will become an integral part of the Salfordian community. We’re currently working on our opening times so this will be communicated ASAP. Within 6-12 months of establishing our base, we intend to start providing training programmes. From the very beginning, as well as in the long term, we will need volunteers – first to help us with some minor construction work and then for the running of the shop. If you are interested in being part of our new base, look at our volunteering opportunities for more information.

We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to City West Housing Trust and Churches Together for all of their support on this project as we couldn’t have got to where we are without them.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask